If you are looking to teach abroad in a country a little off the beaten path, which still offers competitive wages and stunning scenery, then teaching jobs in Malaysia may be for you. Visit Cameron Heights and enjoy a cup of tea overlooking the largest tea plantation in Malaysia and visit Malacca, a former fishing village featuring bright colonial architecture. Whether you want to relax between teaching classes by shopping in high-end malls or exploring the largest cave chamber in the world, Malaysia will fulfill the desires of any teacher looking for an exotic and beautiful country to teach English abroad in.
Peninsular Malaysia offers the cities of Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Terengganu (KL and KT), while teaching in Island Malaysia means saying hello to life in Borneo, one of the most loved tropical paradises on the planet. Penang, an island off the northwest coast, is the country’s food capital and teachers should stop there at some point during their time teaching in Malaysia just to dine on flavors from around the world.
Kuala Lumpur. This modern sprawl is the capital of Malaysia and home to the world’s highest sky bridge which connects the Petronas Towers. It earns international fans because of its well planned downtown. Museums, shopping, tourist hotspots, and everyday needs are all within easy walking distance downtown. The minimal need for transportation is great since many teachers go without cars for at least a portion of their time teaching in Malaysia, however renting an apartment can be a bit expensive within the downtown area.
Kuala Terengganu. KT (get used to the abbreviations because no one in Southeast Asia will actually say the full name) has a population of about 400,000 people, and a tropical rainforest climate that is hot and humid year round. If you’re sensitive to heat be sure to consider whether or not your school has air conditioning. KT is Malaysia’s hub for higher education with several colleges and universities located within the city. The famous Floating Mosque resides there as well as multiple Chinese Temples. It is the most conservative state in Malaysia and women are expected to wear full baju and a headscarf – the traditional Muslim attire. The patterns are endless and the outfits include long sleeves and floor length skirts.
Borneo. The Island section of Malaysia is part of Borneo, the third largest island in the world and the largest in Asia. It is a well know tourist area because of its beautiful beaches and conservation areas. It is a great place for individuals who want to teach abroad in Malaysia and also enjoy outdoor activities, such as scuba diving, hiking, caving, and wildlife observation. It is home to nearly 300 endangered species and provides many opportunities to volunteer in sanctuaries and be immersed in nature.
Schools are divided into private, public, and international schools. Most international schools are in KL and primarily serve the expat population interested in teaching in Malaysia. Schools in Malaysia can be very different, but teachers are always viewed as strict disciplinarians. Authority is clearly outlined and students are expected to give the utmost respect to their teachers. All schools, except some international ones, require students to wear uniforms. Individuals who teach in KT are expected to wear bajus, but not headscarves.
Individuals who obtain teaching jobs in Malaysia should be aware that students are divided according to their abilities early on and grouped together accordingly, a rather non traditional classroom setting. For several years, math and science classes were required to be taught in English in Malaysia, but the law was reverted due to public outcry that requiring such would erode Malay language and culture. Despite this change in law, many schools still want to maintain the multi-language curriculum, hence there remains a demand for English language instruction in Malaysia.
However, teaching jobs in Malaysia span a range of subjects, and even structures beyond the usual school setting. Teachers can easily find opportunities to teach other courses or even serve as a school administrator. English teaching jobs at Malaysian Universities are also an option for teachers with the skills and experience, even for those interested in teaching specialized fields like Interior Design. Teaching placements in Malaysia are also available in less formal settings, with both children and adults, where education may span beyond basic academic courses and focus more on vocational training or professional development.
The school year runs from January to the end of November with many holidays. The Malaysian population has outgrown its school system so many school schedules are divided into a.m. and p.m. sessions. Individuals who teach in Malaysia usually work from 20 to 35 hours of week, but depending on their school of placement hours of work can be flexible.
Salaries & Costs
The average salary for teaching jobs in Malaysia, for someone with experience, is around 3,000 MYR ($1000), but this amount can easily be doubled or even tripled depending on the teaching placement. The cost of living is usually around $1000, but before you do the math and start to think teaching in Malaysia is impossible, you need to know about some important perks.
Teaching jobs in Malaysia for foreigners almost always include some assistance with the cost of airfare, as well as arranging accommodations. Often times, airfare will be completely paid for and a small stipend will go towards rent each month. In some cases housing will be completely covered, but it may mean sharing a house with other teachers. International teachers in Malaysia also receive health care and paid holidays.
Food and transportation are extremely affordable for teachers in Malaysia. Teachers can eat in the local markets or cheap restaurants for just a couple of dollars a day quite easily.
Accommodation & Visas
If you prefer to find your own housing and really want to live alone, housing is relatively easy to find when you begin teaching in Malaysia. It will almost always be cheaper than housing in your home country except for some areas of KL. A partially furnished apartment outside of the city center in KL runs about $500 on the cheapest end, but KL is the most expensive area in terms of housing. KL does offer great selection and easy access to modern amenities though.
Citizens of U.S., Canada, Britain, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand can enter Malaysia for three months and will need to get an Employment Pass before legally teaching in Malaysia. To secure an Employment Pass, teachers must be 25 years old, hold a bachelor’s degree, have a TESOL certification, and have at least two years of teaching experience. Passes can take as long as eight weeks and will require a lot of paperwork by school’s that employ foreign teachers, so keep this in mind and get started.
Don’t let the visa process dissuade you from teaching in Malaysia. Speak with your school about ways to gain experience or work for a shorter period if you need to.
Benefits & Challenges
Getting Hired. Unfortunately, teaching jobs in Malaysia are almost never advertised especially internationally so securing a job prior to arrival can be difficult. This is one reason it can be helpful to go through an established TEFL Certification program.
Beyond Unique. Every location can claim to be unique, but the variety and complexity of Malaysia is nearly incomprehensible. Muslim mosques, Christian churches, and Chinese temples are next to each other, as are bajus and bikinis. Malays also tend to be very intensely concerned with appearance, and pomp and circumstance. The announcement of something may be larger than the event itself; many schools have lengthy assemblies every morning. Most importantly, Malays are easily greatly offended OR complimented. The smallest things may turn situations around in an instant.
Malays are Conservative. This can be a difficult expectation to fulfill for some Westerners. The levels range quite a bit, but be sure to know the expectations of your area. Laws regarding substance abuse and alcohol can also be strict so if you choose to imbibe be wary.
Know How To Greet People. Malaysian culture views touching as odd or slightly rude. Men and women will not shake hands, but offer a bow to one another. It is extremely rude to point directly at someone or touch a child on the head, so no rewarding students with a pat. When a woman meets another woman they may clasp hands then place one hand on their heart to offer quick respect.